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Walden Magazine // Jul 20, 2020

Learning from Home

How younger students adjusted to the move online.

From Walden University’s earliest days, our students have learned from home. It’s not a new idea to our faculty, staff, or students—but it was a new idea to their children.

Kate Little captures the experience of only seeing classmates on a screen.

As schools across America sent children home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walden community found itself in a new reality. It wasn’t just higher education that was online. It was all education. And that took some adjustment from the young students who were attending classes at home for the first time.

We spoke to several children of Walden’s faculty and staff to learn about their experiences.

Finding the Right Space

Before anything else, students learning from home needed a place to do their schoolwork. With the entire Walden community working from home at the same time, families had to balance their space to ensure young students could concentrate. The solutions show the can-do attitude of the Walden community.

Some worked at kitchen tables, surrounded by supplies. Some chose a sunroom. Siblings Kate and Julia Little staked out different spots in their house. Julia, a freshman at Dulaney High School in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland, studied in her home’s breezeway, while Kate, an eighth-grader at Ridgely Middle School, set up in the family room.

“I put motivational quotes on sticky notes on the wall above my laptop,” Kate says.

Niamh Doherty attends her fourth grade class alongside her brother.

Adjusting to a New Way of Learning

Walden has been developing online learning experiences for decades. Most schools had to come up with a system on the fly. That required students to make some serious adjustments.

“The school day is much shorter,” says Ryan Willard Lynch, a fifth grader at The Hill School in Middleburg, Virginia. “We only have sports class once a week when we used to have it four days a week.”

Julia had a similar experience. “My classes used to be 80 to 90 minutes long a couple of times a week,” she says. “Now they are now 20 minutes or less, once a week.”

Enjoying the Perks

Being at home did come with advantages. Namely, children had more freedom.

Erianna Ness expresses the frustration some children felt.

“I can eat whenever,” says Erianna Ness, a second grader at Big Woods Elementary in St. Michael, Minnesota.

Niamh Doherty, a fourth grader at Rock Creek Valley Elementary in Rockville, Maryland, notes a few other benefits.

“We can take breaks between our work, like watching TV,” she says. “Or I can have separate time working on my own things like my autobiography … I’ve been working on an autobiography about myself and what it’s like being home.”

For Kate, being at home even helped her study. “I have more time to finish my work,” she says. “Also, I have my mom to help with my work, so I get A’s and B’s.”

Envisioning What’s Next

The shared experience of learning from home will undoubtedly lead to changes in the years to come. What do these students hope will happen?

A good study space helped Niamh stay on top of her classwork.

“I think schools will be bigger,” says Niamh. “Maybe we’ll have a Chromebook charging station on our desk.”

Ryan also hopes for some new perks. “I like starting the school day later,” he says. “I don’t want to follow a dress code. I want to have my pets with me at school.”

Julia, on the other hand, is hoping for curriculum changes. “It would be good to have more community health classes to learn about diseases, how they spread, and how to stay safe.”

Of course, some children simply want to get back to the way things were. “I think school will be the exact same,” says Erianna, voicing a hope that many surely share.